Just like everyone else on planet Earth I live in a glass house. So I am loathe to throw stones. However, as regular readers of this blog will well know this whole cars versus bikes thing in the media right now has really fired me up. And, having spent the last 4 weeks working in the Sydney CBD, I feel compelled to comment on something that I have observed with disturbing regularity of late: the crazy behaviour of many cycling commuters.
I am a passionate road cyclist. I ride primarily for fitness, and for sport. Whilst I commute occasionally on my bike, I certainly wouldn’t class myself as a commuter – my regular modes of work transport are car, ferry and train. But since I’ve been based on the corner of Market and Kent Streets – aka Sydney’s commuter cycling central – I have seen plenty of commuter riders from close quarters. And, frankly, it worries the hell out me. In fact, it’s fair to say I actually resent a lot of them. Because they’re only helping to reinforce hugely unhelpful stereotypes that place my life, and those of many people I know and care about, in greater danger than it should be.
Just as you can’t group all motorists together, nor can you with cyclists. Yet I’m beginning to wonder if, because the primary exposure many drivers have is not with responsible road riders but rather these CBD nutters, it’s hopelessly clouding their view of the wider cycling population?
You know, and so do I. These people do not represent all cyclists. Far from it. Yet I fear they are the ones setting the mindset for so many motorists, pedestrians (usually also motorists) and, yes, journalists out there. Every day I see a conga line of commuters running red lights on King Street, swerving through traffic and even mounting pedestrian-filled footpaths, not to mention an alarming number sans helmet – the most instantly visible sign of a rider law breaking. I’ve nearly been cleaned up by a couple of these maniacs. Same goes for the footbridge across Darling Harbour which, at times, resembles a crit track. Wouldn’t that be ironic, a cyclist getting knocked down by….cyclists.
But here’s the thing that’s really stood out to me. Hardly any of these people are on road bikes. They’re on hybrids, fixies and MTBs. And it shits me.
There’s a small, but not insignificant, handful of these clowns out there treating the city roads and footpaths like their own urban playground. These are the squeaky wheels who get all the media oil, as the rest of us quietly try to go about our lives without getting hit by cars or run off the road by delivery vans. Yes, accidents will still happen and many motorists still need to take far greater care; I’m a total believer in the 1 Metre Matters campaign. But the increasing hostility on Sydney roads that’s being fuelled in large part by media hysteria, is itself being fuelled by the actions of an irresponsible few.
I’ve made a conscious decision to start giving these renegade commuters a gobful whenever I see them riding recklessly, always being very sure to inform them I am a rider myself. I think we all have an obligation to do this, to get our own house in order with a bit of good old fashioned self-regulation. Only then can we truly cast stones at everyone else. Who’s with me?